I’m gonna get this out of the way early: I think Lady Gaga is probably the most skilled pop star we have right now. She’s conjured an image and a weirdly cult-like following from a range of fairly obvious influences out of nowhere. Many of her songs are atrocious – Just Dance, Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) and Lovegame to name a few – but many are average to brilliant pop songs, such as Poker Face and Bad Romance respectively. So obviously there was a mountain of anticipation for her new single (myself, embarrassingly, included). However, those hoping for a newer, bolder Bad Romance were disappointed. What we got was a fairly sub-standard, bland, generic pop song.
It’s no secret that Gaga dabbles in the “weird”. A manufactured weirdness, yes; she’s the hipster of pop stars, like a chick that wears a Peaches t-shirt but says in a university political science class that she “thinks feminism gets us nowhere”. Given that Born This Way (from here on referred to as BTW) is, to say nothing of how similar it is to a certain Madonna song, a pretty normal sounding 3 minute pop song, naturally the video has to be pretty batshit. So yes, you experience Gaga given birth to good and apparently presiding, goddess-like, over a world without prejudice or hatred or war or any of those awful things that only Lady Gaga’s music can stop apparently?
Usually I’d mainly stick to the song itself but there’s a lot to digest in the video, most of it barely even tangentially related to the song’s subject matter. Gaga’s more recent videos haven’t really been very related to the song as strongly as older ones but that’s mainly because their subtexts have actually been ‘sub’ rather than just text. Born This Way is like the air raid siren of “gay anthems”. Though she branches out occasionally in the song and extends her inspirational message to the “Lebanese or Orient” (stopping short, for some reason, of calling them “sand-Niggers” or “gooks”, because I guess she doesn’t want to be TOO un-PC), it seems like that is there simply to pad the song out.
So it strikes me as a little odd that her video wouldn’t really reflect the message of the song. I feel as though if she really intended BTW to be the “it’s okay to be gay” type song of the 21st century she would’ve actually had something, or someone, gay in the damn clip. As it stands, the closest she comes is a unicorn and some pink.
As someone in the supposed target audience of the song, I don’t really feel the message at all. I don’t need Lady Gaga to tell me to be comfortable in myself. I understand that there are probably a myriad of gay teenagers out there who may idolise her (I think I’ll say more about the idolatry of Gaga some other time) and her song is might empower them…
…but when the song contains the line, “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen!” then my scepticism gland practically fucking EXPLODES. All of a sudden you’re not “born this way” unless said way is as “a queen”. I doubt it’s how she meant it but it really is there. Then there’s the problem of her creating a gay anthem, where gay anthems – as history dictates – are generally songs co-opted by the gay community. BTW is way too specifically targeted at a certain number of gays to be a gay anthem, as opposed to I Will Survive, for example. It’s like the musical equivalent of the Sex and The City movies.
There’s also the very odd reference to god more than once in the song.
It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-i-m
Just put your paws up
‘Cause you were born this way, baby
“There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are”
She said, “‘Cause He made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up, girl and you you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”
I’m beautiful in my way,
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-i-m (hey, hey, hey)
I love my life, I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah
I don’t get it. Is this song about empowerment of gays or is it about loving Jesus? Because apparently all this feeling good about myself because I’m born this way comes with the caveat of only doing so as a direct result of “H-i-m”. I know that gays aren’t exclusively non-religious (though I, by now obviously, am) but I have a bit of a problem with being told that I’m “beautiful in my way” simply because “God makes no mistakes” when the majority of the worshippers of said God would like to see me burn in hell.
As far as the actual song goes, it’s not terrible. On first listen I thought it was, mostly out of disappointment. It has grown on me to the point where I think it’s just a below average Express Yourself clone. I’d probably be legitimately impressed if, say, Katy Perry released this. Actually I probably wouldn’t, her foghorn of a voice would ruin it. But Alejandro was my favourite pop song of last year, so surely I’m not wrong to want something on that level? It’s not as though she isn’t capable of it since only a handful of her songs I would consider to be actually very good.
Industry people have been saying that BTW is the most straightforward pop song on the album of the same name, so there is a possibility that we’ll see something actually different. But for as long as she’s making songs and music videos like this – ones which aren’t just ridiculous fun, like Telephone – I’ll remain disappointed that the only slightly forward-thinking actual pop star of our time is making bland, self-indulgent piffle with a message which is so obviously simply pandering to a fan base outside of a some cursory references to racial minorities. I imagine her thought process here to be something like:
“Most of my fans are faggots so they’ll lap this shit up!”
“Oh fuck, what if they’re black too?”